As The Crow Flies

Developing a strategy for a company is challenging without clear sight of our target. We don’t know if what we’re aiming for is right or wrong and it’s nearly impossible anticipating all the possible contingencies. Are we focused on the right things? Do we have everything in place? Are we positioned to succeed? What is our backup plan? These are questions we need to be asking ourselves, and many more. If we fail to answer our questions with certainty, we will always be aiming at a moving target.

We need a strategy with a straight line of sight (as the crow flies) to make sure we hit the target. If “fake it ’til you make it” is your motto, then you’ll be sure to have a long winding road ahead.

Developing a strategy is similar to cooking a meal. When we understand what the outcome needs to be, we tend to take a different approach to reach our goal. It works the same way we prepare a meal. We flip the package over or follow a recipe and read the directions. Step 1… Step 2… at 375° for 40 minutes.

We carefully follow directions and gather together the ingredients, how we need to mix them, when to mix them, at what temperature, and for how long. We clearly identify what we need to do. But, sometimes the directions are not always clear. Other times we think they are, but are they? Understanding how to do something is one thing, understanding (why) we do something is entirely different.

Did you know crows are often identified as clever tricksters?

Wrong Diagnosis

Discover how creating systems help minimize common mistakes in the workplace.

Oregon Research Institute completed a study of doctors asking a group of radiologists at the University of Oregon: How do you decide if a person has cancer from a stomach X-ray? The doctors explained there were seven major signs. The Oregon Researchers then asked the doctors to judge the probability of cancer in ninety-six different individual stomach ulcers.

Without telling the doctors what the researchers were up to, they showed the doctors each ulcer twice, mixing up the duplicates randomly in the pile so the doctors wouldn’t notice they were being asked to diagnose the exact same ulcer they had already diagnosed.

Surprisingly, the doctors’ diagnoses were all over the map: The experts didn’t agree with each other. Even more surprisingly, when presented with duplicates of the same ulcer, every doctor had contradicted himself and rendered more than one diagnosis: These doctors apparently could not even agree with themselves.

You could beat the doctor by replacing him with an equation created by people who knew nothing about medicine and had simply asked a few questions of doctors.

In fact, I was able to identify a wrong diagnosis myself, perhaps you had a similar experience. The only difference may lie in how we arrived at knowing the diagnosis was wrong. Having a gut feeling is one thing, but knowing with certainty is something else. There is no evidence to support a gut instinct. Read my story about how I systematically analyzed information to identify the correct diagnosis.

The above is a slightly edited excerpt from: Michael Lewis. “The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds.” Long story short, the system ensures the result.

Let’s take a look at another real-life example.

Which is more important, the system or individual? Watch the 40 second video.

In this case, algorithms ensured the result because humans often make mistakes or become easily distracted. In only 8 seconds the video demonstrates how an algorithm can prevent common mistakes in human judgement. Tesla’s Autopilot 2.0 System warns of a wreck before it occurred and immediately alerted the driver while stopping the vehicle.

Two Choices

An example of why we need to question our intuition.

Imagine a Y in the road ahead. We have two choices, ( a ) go left, or ( b ) go right. One is a choice based on how we feel (gut instinct). The other is a choice knowing which way to go.

There will be two different destinations ahead depending on which way we turn (two different outcomes). One will take us to our destination, the other will take us to an unknown destination.

Do not trust anyone, including yourself, to tell you how much you should trust their judgment.
— Daniel Kahneman Ph.D., Psychology

The driver has GPS and knows going left is correct, but the passengers intuition says go right (not knowing the driver has GPS). The drivers decision was strategic from the start. Having a strategy helps make sure we hit the target. We need to choose our paths carefully. This is why we get lost and stop to ask for directions. We use GPS because we know our intuition or (gut feelings) are not always right.

Cut to the Chase

I am always impressed by simple systems. Here is one example I often experience ordering food; it could be Chinese, pizza, or the deli. The entire phone call in under 20 seconds.

Dial the phone number… phone rings…

Hi Brian. Thank you for calling blank. Would you like the same thing you ordered last time?

Me: yes

Okay, great. See you at 4:40

Me: thank you

The Lesson

Everything we touch and interact with at work on a daily basis is a piece of the puzzle. Combined they are pieces of the big picture. Each piece holds a value within our work environment. It could be our customers, a brush, a roller, or the drill used to remove hardware. All of the pieces play a role in our success. The pieces have the potential to make or break our business. Never underestimate how little things can make a big difference.

The people who have become successful in business recognize the importance of using good pieces. It could be their customers, sales team, estimators, marketing, products, whatever. The underlying message I’ve pushed throughout the last 20 years is to get “good pieces.”

The more good pieces we use, the better.

The next time we give an estimate, or make a new hire, or buy a new brush, roller, or sprayer, ask yourself, “Is this a good piece of the puzzle?” Is this a good fit? Does this piece fit good with the other pieces? We need to avoid allowing our emotions get in the way of clear thinking and stop making poor decisions.

When we make choices based on how much money we saved on gallon of paint or primer, or a brush, or a new hire ⎯- we are basing our decisions on the wrong principles for the system that ultimately makes us money. Sometimes we need to step back and carefully look at the pieces.

Always be thinking… smart decisions = smart results.

Necessary but not Sufficient

Using something such as a paint brush is not sufficient to understanding it in the same way reading a book is not sufficient to understanding it. The Bible is an exceptional example because it can be read and interpreted differently, however, that does not mean we understand it. We think we understand until we take a closer look and different parsing of the text “in context” of Scripture.

The brush, although a necessary part of painting, may not be sufficient for reaching our full potential in the same way reading a book on Goals is no guarantee we’ll ever achieve goals. We need to understand why we fail at accomplishing things to avoid failure.

Understanding anything takes a disciplined, data-driven methodology to distinguish the difference between thinking we understand and knowing we understand. I am all for wanting to do things the easy way or take the shortest route, but I know, that only gets me so far. Let’s face it, we need to step outside our comfort zone to make things happen. We need to think and look at things differently.

Necessary But Not Sufficient
Eliyahu M. Goldratt , Carol A. Ptak

Backward Goals

Let’s explore how things work in a systems environment. Let’s say each puzzle piece illustrated below represents goals and the center is the arbitrary achievement hub of our brain. People conventionally work “toward” reaching a goal, but this is backwards in a systems environment.

Now, let’s view the puzzle pieces as representing each part of our business and the center piece as an arbitrary achievement hub. Again, conventionally working toward the center to reach a goal. This too is backwards.

The “goals” and “parts” of our business should be built into the system (center hub) and worked outwardly. They become the “result” of the central system. They are a side-effect of the system where the system ensures the result and not simply aiming for something.

With goals, we aim for the bullseye, but we don’t always hit it.

Hypothetical example: Let’s say our referral business is virtually nonexistent and we want to turn it around. We would make it a goal to get new referral business. We would work towards achieving something. The idea becomes an area we focus some effort and hope for the best.

When we set up a central system in the beginning, the referral business becomes a side-effect result of the system, not something we work towards as an afterthought or corrective measure in the future. It occurs on its own because the result is built into the system.

Real-life example: How to paint a room in 6 minutes was never a goal. The ability to paint a room in 6 minutes is the result of a system where the system gave birth to the achievement. There is a valuable lesson to understand when Scott Adams said, “Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners” and it’s no different from what I’ve preached for 20 years.

The concept may sound profound, but once we fully grasp how systems work and understand how the pieces fit, things harmoniously fall into place on their own. The system ensures the result.

Arbitrary Goals

“If your metric for the value of success by worldly standards is “buy a house” and “have a nice car” and you spend twenty years working your ass off to achieve it; once it’s achieved, the metric has nothing left to give you.

Its growth that generates happiness, not a long list of arbitrary achievements. In this sense, goals, as they are conventionally defined, “graduate from college,” “buy a lake house,” “lose 15 pounds” are limited in the amount of happiness they can produce in our lives. They may be helpful when pursuing quick short-term benefits, but as guides for the overall trajectory of our life, they suck.”

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
Mark Manson Chapter 7 – 7:48

Arbitrary – based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

A meaningful goal would be to become smarter in order to identify what is meaningful.

Systems

Systems are an important part of running a business. They are the living breathing schematics for how a business operates on a daily basis. Systems originate from developing a business strategy and vital for maintaining a healthy business and employee morale. They provide an uncluttered illustration of how a business is organized and how it needs to work.

Operating a business without some sort of strategy or system may lead to hardships such as poor employee morale, psychological issues, focus issues, deadline issues, money issues, growth issues, profit issues, new business issues, loss of business, or an inability to obtain referral business; to name a few.

From a problem solving perspective in relation to smooth operations, I am looking for the cause of common problems and seeking to understand their origins then implement the solution into the system. We need to be asking, Why is this a problem and how can we prevent this problem in the future?

Systems are intended to prevent a vast majority of common problems experienced running a business. Many problems encountered are simply the result of not having a system in place to prevent the problem from occurring. A haphazard approach to running a business will not lead to much of anything except perpetual chaotic nonsense.